IN Focus: Donnelly meets with Supreme Court nominee

WASHINGTON – Indiana's Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly met with President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, Wednesday, the second Democrat to do so ahead of his confirmation hearing next month.

No cameras were allowed inside Donnelly's office. His staff released a picture after the meeting.

Donnelly released the following prepared statement:

“I had a wide-ranging conversation and productive meeting with Judge Kavanaugh. This was an important opportunity to sit down and talk in-depth with Judge Kavanaugh about: his record; experience working in the Bush Administration and serving on the federal bench; and views on the role of the Supreme Court as well as on a range of issues including precedent, health care, and judicial independence.

“I take my responsibility as Senator to consider Supreme Court nominees very seriously and will continue a thorough review of Judge Kavanaugh’s record and plan to follow his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing closely. Hoosiers rightly expect careful and thoughtful consideration of a nomination to our nation’s highest court, and I plan to keep doing my homework and make a decision sometime after Kavanaugh’s committee confirmation hearing.”

Donnelly, who is facing a tough reelection campaign against Republican businessman Mike Braun is seeing pressure from all sides.

"I think there are people who are going to be mad at him no matter which choice he makes," said Jennifer Wagner, a Democratic strategist and panelist on IN Focus. "We're 80 some days out from a very important election and the balance of the Senate could very well hang on Indiana or West Virginia. And so people are going to make a big deal about it."

Groups like the Judicial Crisis Network and Demand Justice are spending millions of dollars in several key states, including Indiana. Federal records show about $600,000 has been spent on advertising in the Indianapolis market alone.

Beyond that, outreach is happening to build support for Kavanaugh.

Justin Walker, an assistant professor of law at the University of Louisville, clerked for both retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Kavanaugh. Walker spoke this week to the Indianapolis chapter of The Federalist Society.

"He's honored by the president's nomination and a lot of former clerks and friends and colleagues of his over the years are out trying to inform people who don't know as much about Judge Kavanaugh," Walker said in an interview. "He says I want to be surrounded by people who are going to approach the law in an independent and thoughtful way because Judge Kavanaugh approaches the law in an independent, thoughtful way."

In a series of tweets Wednesday, Braun said "After dragging his feet for a month, I'm glad Sen. Donnelly is finally doing his job for Hoosiers and meeting with President Trump's Supreme Court nominee."

Bruan added "Now, rather than waiting for permission from the liberal-wing of his party, I challenge Sen. Donnelly to join the majority of Hoosiers - myself included - in immediately announcing his support for Judge Kavanaugh."

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